Joker: plot, cast, music, trailer and release date

7 October 2019, 18:07 | Updated: 7 October 2019, 18:11

By Helena Asprou

Starring Joaquin Phoenix as super-villain, the comic book-inspired movie recently won an award at the Venice Film Festival – here’s everything you need to know about its eerie story and soundtrack.

Joker tells the story of Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian who begins a slow dissent into madness after being shunned by society.

Directed by Todd Phillips and co-written with Scott Silver, the American psychological thriller follows Fleck around Gotham City as he embarks on an unmerciful attack against humanity, transforming himself into a violent criminal with an unusual trademark.

Set in 1981, the dark motion picture bases its troubled protagonist (played by award-winning actor, Joaquin Phoenix) on DC Comics’ character, who commits his crimes while dressed as a clown, further adding to his crazed persona.

Warner Bros. has described the film as “an exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale”.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as the Joker
Joaquin Phoenix stars as the Joker. Picture: Warner Bros.

Who wrote the score for Joker?

Joker demanded a soundtrack that would bring its twisted plot to life – and with her impressive portfolio of music for thrillers and horror movies, Icelandic composer, Hildur Ingveldardóttir Guðnadóttir, has experience made for a film like this.

As well as performing solo cello for the epic biographical Western, The Revenant, the talented 37-year-old composer, choral singer and classically trained musician has written the scores for films such as The Oath (2016), Journey’s End (2017) and Mary Magdalene (2018).

In 2006, Guðnadóttir released a solo album titled Lost in Hildurness, Mount A, on which she attempted to “involve other people as little as [she] could”, and later released a second solo album, Without Sinking.

And in the trailer for Joker, the eerie soundtrack certainly sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

In the public bathroom scene, following Fleck’s murderous rampage in a train, we hear Guðnadóttir’s haunting cello theme for ‘The Bathroom Dance’ – where Phoenix moves soulfully to the music and we see him begin the transformation to Joker.

This theme reappears towards the end of the movie when the Joker makes his TV appearance with talk show host, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro).

Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian in Gotham City
Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian in Gotham City. Picture: Warner Bros.

Speaking about the music and Phoenix’s interpretation to Indie Wire, Guðnadóttir said: “You could tell that the dance was choreographed to the music. We’re listening along with him. And it was the first scene that they sent me from the shooting, and it was so magical to see that he was basically experiencing the same movements that I had experienced when I was writing the music.”

She continued: “Of course, I grew up with the instrument and have a very strong physical and emotional connection to it. Having that as a starting point, I had what was almost like an electric shock when I found his theme.

“I felt very strongly for him and it was how I imagined his inner world to be. This was the note: his sad and lonely outsider status, his difficulty trying to fit in, and his lack of understanding of why everyone out there doesn’t allow him to be a part their world. And I found that very heartbreaking. You get so angry along with him because the abuse [he suffers] is so unimaginable.

“I thought that was a good way of representing the emotional forces that are driving him. But he doesn’t realise that they are there. That’s the role of the orchestra. After the attack on the subway train that takes him over the edge, the orchestra becomes more aggressive and more present.

“The percussion also starts off slowly in a two-note and then builds, pounding like his heartbeat. So I couldn’t use any cool, complicated beats. This was really simple and to the point and then it gets louder and louder.”

Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix
Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix. Picture: Warner Bros.

Who has been cast in Joker?

American actor, producer and activist, Joaquin Phoenix, has been cast as the lead role of Arthur Fleck and the Joker.

The award-winning actor has previously received a Grammy, Golden Globe and three Academy Award nominations for his work – which includes Walk the Line (2005), Hotel Rwanda (2004), Her (2013) and You Were Never Really Here (2017), so we can’t wait to see his performance in Todd Phillips’ forthcoming film.

While accepting an award for Joker at Venice International Film Festival, director Phillips said: “There is no movie without Joaquin Phoenix. Joaquin is the fiercest and brightest and most open-minded lion I know. Thank you for trusting me with your insane talent.”

Joining Phoenix in the stellar cast are Zazie Beetz as Sophie Dumond, a cynical single mother, Robert de Niro as talk show host Murray Franklin, and Frances Conroy, who plays Penny Fleck, the Joker’s mother.

What is the release date for Joker?

Joker premiered at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on 31 August 2019, taking home the Golden Lion, the festival’s most prestigious prize.

Joker was released by Warner Bros. Pictures in the UK and US on 4 October 2019.